We’ve come to a point when slamming one’s head in a car door is preferable to listening to or reading mainstream sports media pundits. You didn’t even have to pick up a daily newspaper sports section (assuming you’re 80 or older) or log onto the interwebs after the Giants beat the Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI to know that Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been crowned the Greatest Quarterback of All Time, King of the World, and Mann-dingo. (That last one’s mine.) Just 12 months ago, the same mouths testifying to Eli’s greatness were blowing Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, in his SB wrap-up, manages to achieve new rhetorical lows. After drawing hearts around Eli’s name every time it’s mentioned, King poses the question to which we all know the answer: “What quarterback alive do you want with the ball in his hands in the last two minutes of a big game?”
Yawn. First of all, I’m not taking the comment-leaving bait (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers). Secondly, sure, that 38-yard Manningham throw and catch on the deep-fourth-quarter game-winning drive was spectacular, but c’mon: Nine times out of 10, the receiver doesn’t get both feet in bounds and control the ball all the way through. If luck is the byproduct of hard work, then Manning and Manningham must have built the pyramids of Giza.
By being a good quarterback who’s not making as many mistakes as he used to, Eli has become an underdog hero, the dark horse that pundits like to trot out in conversations about “elite” NFL quarterbacks (Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, healthy Peyton Manning). Now that Eli has won two Super Bowls, touting his play –– and even his hillbilly-ness –– has become fashionable. And really annoying.
In his really annoying, so-cute-it-hurts SB wrap-up, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham actually spins Eli’s vapidity into a positive. Apparently, Wick tells us, the oldest Manning brother, Cooper, told Eli he wouldn’t call him the rest of the week. Eli’s crushingly hilarious/crushingly poignant response? “All right,” Eli said. “Good.”
Which is fine. Not every athlete is Yogi Berra or Andy Van Slyke. But Wick just can’t resist the lure of the purple pen, writing, “Classic Eli: blunt, quick, leaving you to wonder whether he’s joking.”
No, no, no. How about: “Classic Eli: vapid, slooowww, leaving no doubt in your mind that he’s still a goddamn hillbilly.”
Or, better yet, how about another, much more insightful anecdote (though no one could ever be accused of confusing ESPN’s prose for Harper’s or The Paris Review’s).
Next year, when reality returns and the Giants are back where they belong, in the middle of the NFC pack, playoffs on the line from the midpoint of the season on, we will have forgotten all about the G-Men and Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin and Justin Tuck, and we will be cooing over and crowning a new King of the World Hall-of-Famer-While-Still-Playing quarterback.
Don’t count out No. 12 from New England.
P.S. Sports Nation is asking to rate your top QBs with multiple SB wins (11). (Only one team –– a’hem, greatest sports franchise ever –– has two quarterbacks represented.)